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Page | 1 A/L 2016 English Literature R.C. Fernando (B.A. , M.A.

, Marking Examiner)
Alpha Academy, Matale.

Professional Mourners

Alugu Subramanium (1915 1971)

Subramanium is a Sri Lankan writer who was born and lived in the northern province of Sri Lanka.This
Short Story is taken from the short story collection The Big Girl published in 1964 is based on the
customs and traditions in his society and he writes on the basis of his own experience.

Professional Mourners

The practice of hiring mourners was a widely spread custom in the northern, eastern and north
western provinces in Sri Lanka.

Lower cast families in these communities traditionally provided the professional mourners for the
funerals of upper cast families. They are called Professionals because some of them do it as a
full time occupation.

They are also adopting certain techniques in the performance of their job such as singing verses
of praise about the dead person who may actually do not know. And annoying at the time they
should mourn aloud.

The women are paid for their service.

Although experience and practice they have gained professional skills.

Themes of the story

1. Hypocrisy behind social customs the story through the eyes of the narrator who is a grandson of
the dead person critically looks at the actions of the uncles and performance of the professional

2. The rigidity of the cast system story highlights how the upper cast who are rich treat the poor
and low cast. The uncle shows less respect to the professional mourners and even his attitude
towards the fishermen reflex the rigidity of the cast.

3. Treatment for women in conventional society The uncles treatment to the funeral house reflects
the women are not treated equally.


1. The story is narrated in the first person format which highlights the intensity of the story and
droves us closer to the main character.

2. The story uses another character; the uncle and involves a few other characters.

3. The entire story shows a period of one day for the plot of the story covers rapidly.

4. The story is written in a standard system and does not used local directs.

The Characters
Page | 2 A/L 2016 English Literature R.C. Fernando (B.A. , M.A., Marking Examiner)
Alpha Academy, Matale.

This short story is narrated in the 1st person format. And therefore the reader becomes familiar with the
thoughts feelings and emotions of the narrator who helps you his experience at 1st hand. Much of the
story consists of unspoken thoughts of the narrator employing the stream of conscious techniques. The
story has been written as an adult but we are calling the childhood experience very rapidly.


The most important aspect of the grand sons character is his mental questioning and critical
approaching, explaining what either been an ordinary ritual connected with preparations for a funeral. It is
his rational output and questioning mind that probes a custom that has been long in Sri Lankan society.
He is not only questioning a custom but also his uncles treatment of the mourners. The writer compels
the reader to look at social customs and questions the adults behaviors through the eyes of a child.

The Uncle

The uncle of the story is presented as a character that follows the customs and conventions faithfully. His
decisions to some of the mourners family highlights: Firstly the lack of mutual respect in a cast of
dominated society. The story reveals that the poverty and cast issues had made at times of human; and
unsympathetic: in order to highlight these issues the uncles character is somewhat exaggerated and it
will derive that even some of another adults did not approve the way he treated the mourners and he was
forced to apologize. This also reminds you that story was written in the 1916s during a period of social


In keeping with the age old customs somehow cast poor families had traditionally engaged in
professional mourning as a traditional livelihood. Professional mourners were always traditionally women.
The memory which conducts them at a funeral house indicates that the customs were based on firstly
impressive relations and friends that the dead person was greatly missed. Secondly as it has became a
custom the absence of professional mourners would indicate a lack of completeness to the ceremony
and many results in critical commenting by family members. On the other hand it is seen that the
professional mourners enjoy their occupation and directly skills. Even though the uncle apologize to the
girls who decided to come because they fear the consequences of displeasing an important family in the


In your view is Professional Mourners a critique of social customs and conventions or is it merely
standing the obvious discuss.

Formation of answering for essay type questions of short stories

1st Paragraph

Briefly introduce the story highlighting its main themes and analyze the given question.

2nd to 3rd, 4th or more paragraphs

Page | 3 A/L 2016 English Literature R.C. Fernando (B.A. , M.A., Marking Examiner)
Alpha Academy, Matale.

In separate paragraphs discuss the different issues or aspects related to the question in discussing the
relevant aspects you must quote from the story and also refer to the character.


In the final paragraph briefly state whether you agree or disagree with the question and how you have
reached the conclusion.

Action and Reaction

Chithra Fernando (1931 1992)

Chithra Fernando is a Sri Lanka writer who had an ability to write short stories with a folk quality.

This short story is taken from the short story collection Three Women publish in 1983. The story
deals with character derived from the Sinhala Buddhist village background in Sri Lanka.

Themes and Overview

The short story Action and Reaction highlights through the character of Loku Nanda that people have
cravings and desires. Loku Nanda who is an unmarried woman wishes to protect herself as a person of
priority and deep religious faiths. However through the eyes of Mahinda, nephew, it is reveled that Loku
Nanda is a hypocrite.

In a predominantly Buddhist environment and culture in the society of Sri Lanka the writer highlights that
some Buddhists like Loku Nanda care more for the precepts rather than the practice of Buddhists.
Loku Nanda was a more interested in building temples, donating loudspeakers and organizing Pirith
ceremonies. But not much focused on the practice of the Buddhism. On everyday life her treatment of
Kusuma reveals that she did not practiced the precepts that she followed, Even Kusuma follows Loku
Nanda was of paying more attention to precepts rather than practices she builds a shrine room but does
not take a good care on Loku Nanda.

This short story reveals the cast and the class system still deeply entrenched in our society. This short
story was published in 1983and reminds us the deeps in our society still conscious of these superiorities.
Loku Nanda does not want to adopt Kusuma at a daughters sense because her father is a today
trapper. But at the end of the story when she is totally dependent of Kusuma she admits that Kusuma is
like a daughter to her.

The story highlights the extent to selfishness as a spinster decides to bring up a servant in the selfish
how that she would lack after in her old days. Out of gratitude in her selfishness desire to retain Kusuma
she prevents her from getting her from getting married and she brings it to her suffering. She denies
Kusuma on all her basic rights such as Education, Freedom and Leisure. Kusuma grows up experiencing
selfishness and in terms she also turns out to be selfish and Loku Nanda becomes a victim of Kusumas
Page | 4 A/L 2016 English Literature R.C. Fernando (B.A. , M.A., Marking Examiner)
Alpha Academy, Matale.

The title of the short story is in keeping with Karmic Law. Which it is believed according to Buddhism,
that your next life will be desired by the good deeds you perform on this life. Loku Nanda fails to
understand that this Buddhist motive is more important than deeds in accumulating merit.

The mentions that her desire is to continue her reborn and hopefully to enjoy a similarly a good life it is
her hope that her good deeds will help her to be reborn as she desires. The story reveals to you that
Loku Nanda is believed to be a good Buddhist that she does not go to understand it at all as she has
chosen to interpret. Even her family members do not appear to have understood this aspect in the way
than the narrator, Mahinda, has understood.

Loku Nanda portrays as a self wiliest character and therefore beyond reproach she is portrayal as a
conventional spinster in our society. But what is the difference is that her brothers and sister are not
perceptive of which the story also makes varied suggestions about the spinster in traditional society but
also does not beyond allusion the render is left ponder.

The story also discusses the theme of servant hood in Sri Lankan society. The story reveals through the
years of Mahinda and Mala about the denial of Kusumas rights as a child. She is denied the rights of
education and freedom. She has become a virtual slave of the modern day to Loku Nanda with the
children of her own age go to school. She has to spend her time sewing, polishing furniture and knitting.
It also highlights that the poverty is the main factor for any quality. By age is being illegally employed and
highlights also the issue of child labour hood. Therefore the most important part of the story is that the
denial of the childrens rights and violation of labour laws is done by a practitioner of Buddhism. This
highlights the main theme of the short story which are Loku Nanda s hypocrisy and self righteousness
and obviousness of the society. The story reveals that society does not critically evaluate the conduct as
a result Loku Nanda is to be exemplified to her nephews and nieces. However this story is seemed
through the eyes of Mahinda who is the narrator of the story and as a child of new generation he proves
to be smarter than the adults at the same time this reveals how the previous generation (Parents
generation) tended to think within conventional structures. Throughout in the minds of Mahinda and Mala
seek radically change the way society thinks and acts.


The reality has revealed invitingly by Mahinda that Loku Nanda is a frustrated spinster who is obviously
concealing her frustration due to the social responsibility of the role. In Mahindas fathers family Loku
Nanda and Punchi Nanda are both spinsters. The story does not reveal any valid reason for
spinsterhood and views the reader to fonder on the choice of life style. For Kusumas spinster hood was
not a choice but a factor determine by her poverty. Loku Nanda in her frustration scheme to protect a
positive image of her personality and therefore chosen to present herself as a very religious personality.
But Mahinda through the typical character trains of a spinster. Therefore the short story also reveals with
the social aspect of a spinster. Through the character of Kusuma he sees her frustration, like Loku Nanda
earlier. Being never married as also resulted in her talking of refuge in the religious life. To give a
relevance and importance in the family.


Discuss Action and Reactions as a critique of customs in Sri Lankan society.

Page | 5 A/L 2016 English Literature R.C. Fernando (B.A. , M.A., Marking Examiner)
Alpha Academy, Matale.